Nigerian music sensation and Grammy-winner, Damini Ogulu, popularly known as Burna Boy, has shared his perspective on the legacy of the late afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti. In a recent interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe in New York, Burna Boy expressed that Fela Kuti’s impact might have been received differently in today’s generation, highlighting the changes in societal attitudes and values.
Acknowledging Fela Kuti’s significant influence on Nigerian and global music, Burna Boy noted that Fela’s message-laden songs resonated with the times in which he lived. He mentioned that Fela’s existence during that specific era allowed him to convey the powerful messages encapsulated in his music.
In the interview, Burna Boy shared his observations about the current times, stating, “What I have realized is that the times are really funny. Fela in his time was going through things that, if he was here today, it might have been a whole different feeling. A whole bunch of people from Nigeria who you see today celebrating Fela are the same people that would have been tagging the police to go and arrest Fela if there was Twitter then.”
Burna Boy, whose maternal grandfather Benson Idonjie was Fela Kuti’s first manager, discussed the paradox of societal attitudes. He mentioned that while Fela Kuti is now revered for his revolutionary artistry and messages, the same society might have critiqued and opposed him if he were active in today’s digital age.
Reflecting on Fela’s unique era, Burna Boy appreciated the alignment of his artistry with the times he lived in. He explained, “If he [Fela] was here today, like his career started now, he may not have the space to explore that [his conscious creativity] because there is too much in this day and age that it just doesn’t interlock with the spirits. Right now, spirituality is almost non-existent.”
Burna Boy further expressed his gratitude for Fela Kuti’s existence in his particular time, allowing the world to experience his genuine essence, the values he stood for, and the profound messages he conveyed through his music. He acknowledged the profound impact Fela Kuti left on the music world and the society at large.